When the Philadelphia Eagles made the trade with the Cleveland Browns last year to move up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to get Carson Wentz, not everyone was so approving of the deal. Former Eagles franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb was among the biggest skeptics.
Now, one year later, McNabb’s opinion seems to have changed a little bit. He’s not ready to crown Wentz just yet, but he said he does believe the 24-year-old passer will eventually become a franchise cornerstone.
McNabb talked about Wentz, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman, and more in an exclusive interview with BGN Radio at the scene of the 2017 NFL Draft. (Click here or watch the video below. Read on for interview transcript.)
The BGN Radio Crew sat down with Donovan McNabb! Has he changed his mind on Wentz?Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Thursday, April 27, 2017
Q: Last year when the Eagles selected Carson Wentz, you had said you’re not sure this guy is a franchise quarterback. Have you changed your mind since then?
A: I know it’s going to come off bad, but no, not yet. And these are the things that I had to go through, being an early draft pick because the expectations are high. You just don’t know until Year 3. You have to allow these guys to develop into the guy you want, which Doug Pederson has an idea of what he wants from Carson. Now [that] he’s starting to build around him a little bit, you’ll get to see more. How he’s going to develop after the first year, in year two, and then year three.
I think so many times we automatically pin-point a guy a franchise quarterback. Which I hate that term anyway. That’s just like the term “elite.” We always see a guy have one good season, all of a sudden he’s an “elite quarterback.” And then the next year it’s like, well, what happened? Well, he’s not elite. How do you go from elite to not elite? It’s just like a franchise quarterback. You see guys get drafted, à la Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater was a late first round draft pick, the list goes on of guys who have been drafted early, or even in the second round, because of a need that they had. And so, we kinda put so much into it, and then year two, year three, you’re like ahh … well you’re starting to hear they’re thinking about drafting another quarterback.
I think Carson eventually will be because I love the direction they’re going in of trying to get him some help. But my thing, like I was just talking about, with this 14th pick, if they stay at 14, I think they should go after a defensive player. They need help on defense to get the ball back for the offense, and then all of a sudden the process goes.
Q: What does Carson Wentz need to do to get to the franchise quarterback level? He didn’t have the best supporting cast last year.
A: True, but you still can’t throw interceptions. I understand, hey look, out of all people, I probably had the most drops out of most quarterbacks in a five, seven year span.
Q: But you also didn’t throw picks.
A: But that’s the thing. It’s about [not throwing] interceptions. They can talk about me throwing it in the dirt, but we got the ball back the next play though. We didn’t throw a pick where all of a sudden we’re on the sidelines. So I would like to see [Wentz] protect the football far more. His command of the offense, that’s what you need as a quarterback. The way he carries himself, that’s what you need as a quarterback. His confidence. Everything that I’ve been hearing so far how he prepares himself. But you have to protect the football or you’re going to find yourself putting the team in a tough situation every week.
Q: How important is it to get weapons early in a quarterback’s career?
A: This is the thing that I kind of think is getting overblown. When you hear weapons, all of a sudden people are just starting to say ‘Oh, well he needs three Pro Bowl wide receivers outside.’ Or ‘he needs a Pro Bowl running back.’ No. I’ve always said this. If you have a horse on the outside, meaning a wide receiver who is a dog, we had [Terrell Owens]. All of a sudden everybody’s game elevated. You know what I mean? You look across the league, when Peyton [Manning] was playing, [he] had Marvin Harrison. All of a sudden everybody elses’ game elevated. Dallas Clark. All these other — [Colts tight end Marcus] Pollard — the tight end position. If you have someone who can run the football, behind you, that you can give to and know he’ll be there each and every week, and catch the ball out of the backfield and pick up the blitz. Those are the weapons that you need. Now, the offensive line has to block. Any quarterback can’t be successful without an offensive line. But if you have a horse, on the outside, someone who can control the inside of the football field — meaning the tight ends — and then a running back that you can turn around and hand the ball off to and he gets three yards a pop, four yards a pop, all of a sudden he’s catching the ball, screen game, goes for 30, 40 yards for a touchdown. Those are the weapons you need as a quarterback.
Did they have that here in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz? Well, there you go. But when I asked for weapons, everybody was like ‘Oh, he doesn’t like his guys! He’s always complaining!’ I’m like, ‘hey, man.’ But all of a sudden it’s a priority now.
Now, is Alshon Jeffery, is Torrey Smith, are they the weapons they need? We’ll see. Because they’ve battled some injuries. They’ve battled a little bit of injuries. And Darren Sproles is getting older. You’re not going to give the ball 20 times a game to Darren Sproles. But that’s the whole thing. You need a running back. You need that offensive line to be secure. Lane Johnson can’t miss any games. Lane was a big piece in that offensive line. And so we’ll see how things go.
Q: What did you see from Doug Pederson in his first year? Do you believe in him in the long-term?
A: I believe in him long term. I don’t know how Jeffrey [Lurie] and those guys feel. I think they have to be patient. I mean, the fans have to be patient. Because it’s tough to think you get lightning in a bottle. I know they’re kind of looking back to our years when we played, and when Doug was here for the one year. And then Andy [Reid] kind of led us to where we want to go. He’s not Andy. Carson’s not me. None of the guys are the Brian Dawkins, the Brian Westbrooks, these are guys with their own identity. But you have to allow them the time to be able to develop. And what I’ve seen from Doug, at least the guys kind of listened to his leadership, they understood what he wanted, and they went out and played hard. That’s all you can ask for in your first year. Now the second year? They’re going to elevate that to another level where not only they’re playing hard, but they’re bringing wins in, they’re competing in each and every game, that’s what I want to see from this football team.
Q: Are you confident this Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas relationship will work for the Eagles?
A: I don’t, ah … because again, it’s you have to look at it in the sense of Howie. And I love Howie to death, Howie’s a great guy. But the decision making, when he was a part of it, and that he made or pulled the trigger, it hasn’t been successful. We can talk about guys who can play here. But you also have to understand they have to gel together. This is the big year for Howie and the rest of the guys who are making decisions.
Should you have confidence in them? Yeah, I think you should have confidence in them. But kind of sit back and see how this is all going to develop because I’m with you, I’m trying to figure this thing out as well. And everyone’s kind of on the Carson Wentz wagon, and he’s going to be a great player, but you’ve got to be patient with it. You have to be patient with all of them.
Q: What’s it like walking around, everyone is just screaming your name?
A: It’s great. I mean, like I told Ike [Reese on SportsRadio 94WIP], I was riding the golf cart right behind Carson. And it was like ‘Ohhh, Carson Wentz!’ and then it was like ‘Ah, hey, Donovan.’ Hey, I mean I’m not tripping! I’m not tripping! If I didn’t have this suit on I’d be in some shorts and a t-shirt myself. Be blending in.
Q: Is there anyone at pick No. 14 that you would think help the Eagles the most defensively?
A: Well, we know how the draft goes. All of a sudden you hear a guy’s a top five pick, he’s still around at like eight, 12, ten … and then all of a sudden it’s like “Whoa, we heard that he was drinking some fruit punch! A month ago, and it looked like an illegal substance they’re looking into.” You know what I mean? It’s stuff like that, when guys are still hanging around, like well. If Reuben Foster is around … but this is the thing though. The linebacking corps is supposed to be alright, right, here in Philadelphia?
Q: Except maybe that weak side spot isn’t so great.
A: Well, again. What I’m saying is, you get the best player available. If an offensive lineman happens to drop. If a defensive lineman drops. All of a sudden do you take the chance of getting him at 14, or are you just going to be like the other GMs and the owners ‘Ah, well, we don’t want bad characters guys on our team.’ No, you need some bad character guys on your team. But you also have to surround them with good character guys so he understands how to be a professional, how to carry on his business.